About 11,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries every year in the USA, and more than 250,000 people are living with this type of injury.
Paralysis Increases Risk of Bed Sores
More than one-third of people with spinal cord injuries develop bed sores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, says Steven Peck, a California Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer. Complications from such sores kill 60,000 Americans a year. That’s twice the number who die from prostate cancer. About 8% of those with spinal cord injuries die from pressure sores. The sores can be difficult to prevent, Peck says, even for patients who receive the best care.
Bed sores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, can be caused by friction, when a paralyzed person slides down in bed, or when the body presses on a vulnerable area and cuts off the blood supply. Tissue can die within hours. If bacteria from infected bed sores spread to the blood, patients can develop an infection called sepsis, which can be fatal.
Although pressure ulcers cannot always be prevented, experts say good nutrition and diets with adequate protein reduce the risk. So do “pressure releases,” in which patients shift their weight in wheelchairs. Chairs and beds for quadriplegics also have been specially designed to relieve pressure. A vacuum device can stimulate wounds to close and clean out bacteria. In serious cases, doctors may operate to cut away dead tissue.
But treating bed sores — which sometimes take more than a year to heal — can be both daunting and disruptive. Patients may have to stay in bed for weeks or even months. Pressure sores can leave paralyzed people further disabled and isolated. “It stops your life,” Peck says.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.